Eagle Day has been canceled, according to Milford Nature Center Director Pat Silvosky.
Some educational videos and downloadable activities may be available online Jan. 9, when Eagle Day was supposed to take place, according to Silvosky and Naturalist Amber Myer, but there will be no tour guides or spotting scopes set up around the lake.
The annual event will not take place for two reasons, Silvosky said — because of COVID-19 and because there are fewer eagles than usual for this time of year around Milford Lake.
She blames the warm weather — and climate change in general — for the low number of eagles migrating to Kansas during the winter months.
“Global climate change is affecting movements of birds and what we have here in Kansas,” Silvosky said.
When the winters are mild, the birds have no reason to fly this far south.
Silvosky said the lack of eagles at the lake was a bigger factor in the decision not to hold the event even than the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“There’s a smattering of them around, but when we go to try to show them to people, we’ve got one bird that doesn’t sit tight,” she said.
There are permanent winged residents who nest around the lake, but most of those eagles aren’t easily viewed by the public.
Many of the regular nesting pairs of eagles that live here year round nest on Fort Riley or on land owned by the Army Corp of Engineers — not in publicly accessible areas. Even those that are on public land still need to be viewed with care. People need to keep their distance from the nests — at least 100 yards — and not harass or disturb the birds roosting there.
Despite the decreasing number of eagles migrating to the lake, the nature center does plan to hold eagle day next year.
“We miss people,” Myers said. “We miss doing our thing and so yeah — we’re ready to be able to do some of these fun events again."
This year, there will likely be prerecorded videos on the nature center’s Facebook and Instagram accounts and children’s coloring pages for download, according to Myers. She said they may not have the staff resources to livestream Saturday when the event would typically take place, but it’s not totally off the table. According to Myers, the nature center would like to provide some information about how to find and view bald eagles in the wild. The nature center will be closed Saturday.
This would have been the 31st annual Eagle Day. According to Myers, a lot of time and discussion preceded the choice to cancel, with talk about how Eagle Day might proceed safely starting back in August.
“It’s kind of been a little bit of a bummer,” Myers said. “Our intentions were to go ahead with it and have people preregister and that way we could kind of limit the numbers, but our staff — with everybody traveling for the holidays and everything — we just felt like maybe it would be safest to try not to get everybody out here at the same time."
The nature center is open from 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. weekdays to visitors and special programs can be scheduled if people call in advance.
According to Myers, if any local educators want to teach their classrooms about eagles, they can contact the nature center ahead of time to arrange a day for their class to visit the nature center or to take part in a virtual lesson.
“As long as we can limit the number of people and have a little lead time, we can do things,” Myers said.